Hidden Vigorish

Growing up in a small town in Western Pennsylvania in the 60’s and 70’s, my world was pretty small. The success and failure of the steel industry played a major role in setting a tone across the region, and in many ways the center of our little universe was the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers … the center of Pittsburgh Pa. While the declining health of the U.S. steel industry was a major element through that period of history (and BTW Pittsburgh has staged an amazing comeback over the past two decades and is now quite an impressive and thriving city), my eyes were more centered on the growing success of our local sports teams. Through this period of time, the Steelers and the Pirates won multiple championships, culminating in 1979 when the Steelers won the Super bowl and the Pirates won the World Series; the moniker “city of champions” was born! I have written in a previous essay (“Mistakes Matter”) about the Steelers and to this day I remain a loyal fan. This story is about an earlier time and the more successful days of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

I was 10 in 1971 when the Pirates won the world series, a team including such greats as Roberto Clemente, Willy Stargell, Steve Blass, and Manny Sanguillen just to name a few. A very small world story is that Bob Moose, a pitcher for the Pirates in those days died tragically on his 29th birthday and his grave is just a few yards away from my Mom’s in Delmont Pa. Among the stars of the Pirates in those days was also an announcer whose gravelly voice I can still hear in my ears today; that of Bob Prince better known as “the Gunner.” He was the long time voice of the Pirates through the 60’s and 70’s and was famous for unique slogans or phrases that became his signatures. “A bloop and a blast”, “A bug on a rug”,” A dying quail’, “ A #8 can of Golden Bantam” all were in his signature repertoire. Over the past few months I have been thinking about another of his “Gunnerisms” that I feel has application broadly; the need for a little “Hidden Vigorish”.

Whenever the Pirates were in a jam, or a specific player was down in the count late in a game, “the Gunner” would make his famous call for some “Hidden Vigorish”. The idea would be the need to dig deep and find that last little spark, or hint of energy, that might start a rally, strikeout an opponent, and win the day for the beloved Pirates. I can remember in the summer of 1971, playing homerun derby in my neighborhood with the other kids, listening to the ball game on the radio, and all trying to mimic Bob Prince’s raspy voice calling for that “Hidden Vigorish.”

It’s in that spirit that this memory has come back to me over the past few months. We have been having a successful year, and while we have faced many challenges, more continue to come. In the face of that continuing dynamic, I have been so inspired by my team’s ability to dig deep, find that extra ounce of energy, find a little “Hidden Vigorish”, to prevail and succeed. Now with only one month to go to close out a very successful fiscal year, it’s time for us to remember “the Gunner” and find a little “hidden vigorish” to finish off the year in winning style. Whether you are at the beginning or end of your fiscal year, whether you are in business or not, we all face challenges. Sometimes the challenges are easy to face and simple to overcome; many times they are daunting and seem impossible to endure. Regardless of their scale and intensity, think back to “the Gunner” and his call for a little “hidden vigorish” to turn the day; a call we all need more often than we often admit.